OpenStreetMap US

A significant portion of US Chapter activities consists of education, outreach, and community development. Engaging high school and university students, as well as youth organizations is an both an effective way to develop interest in the OpenStreetMap project and give young people a tangible means to interact with geography. Their geography.

Last month, I was asked to give a guest lecture at North Carolina State University introducing OpenStreetMap, and hold a mapping party with the same students the very next day. The students were enrolled in Dr. Heather Cheshire’s Environmental Technology course, an introduction to spatial technologies, and part of the curriculum in the Department of Forestry & Natural Resources .

The goal for this mapping party was to map all of the bicycle racks on the NCSU campus. To insure complete coverage, Dr. Cheshire’s and her team of students had divided the campus into grid cells prior to the mapping party. Each cell was capable of being covered by one team within an hour’s time. For the field data collection, the students were paired off, assigned a grid cell, and each team provided with a hand-held GPS unit.

Upon return, the students downloaded the GPX tracks and waypoints and uploaded to OpenStreetMap. They then traced the tracks and digitzed waypoints using Potlatch2. Tagging was done through the presets, with some additional tags added for data source and date acquired. The results were presented the very next day at the North Carolina GIS Conference , by one of the participating students.

In order to encourage readers of this post to work with students, I want to share some of the factors that went into making this mapping party a success. First, we had plenty of regular communications between me and Dr. Cheshire well in advance of the mapping party to familiarize the teaching staff with OpenStreetMap, data organization and editing methods. Secondly, Dr. Cheshire and her teaching assistants familiarized the students with the GPS units and data gathering techniques prior to the mapping party, including how to download GPX tracks from the GPS units. Third, Dr. Cheshire and her team focused on collecting one feature (bike racks) and insured that all students tagged these features consistently. You might not be able to control all of these factors for your next mapping party, but by controlling for some, your mapping party stands a better chance of success.